The Philadelphia Mint struck over 5.5 billion Lincoln cents in 1978, consuming 765,914.1 pounds or 157,583.8 metric tonnes of copper. It should be noted, however, that the West Point facility did strike roughly 1.5 billion of these coins and there is no way to distinguish between the two mintages. Combined, this represented only 56.5 of the total Lincoln cent issuance for 1978, the remainder being made up by the Denver facility. Despite being an increase of over 1.1 billion coins from the previous year, this was only a slightly above-average mintage of Memorial cents for the Philadelphia branch of the United States Mint.
Coins from this mintage generally display sharp details. In part because the Mint used a new reverse hub in 1978. Interestingly, effective June 7, 1978, the United States Treasury Department revoked the prohibition on exporting or melting U.S. cents that had been implemented in 1974 amid rapidly rising copper prices.
One of the best ways to locate 1978 Lincoln cents in high grades today is to look through the yearly Mint Sets. Offered at $7 ($31.80 adjusted for inflation), the U.S. Mint released 2,162,609 sets in 1978. Currently, these sets are easily acquired for $7 to $10.
The 1978-P Lincoln Cent in Today’s Market
Since the vast majority of the 5.5 billion Lincoln cents struck by the Philadelphia and West Point Mints are only worth face value, there is an extremely small, combined population of only 1,089 coins graded and certified by both PCGS and NGC.
1,023 of those coins, or 94% of the combined population, have earned the Red (RD) color designation, and 485 pieces–or 47.4% of the RD population–have been graded as MS 66 RD or above. However, the majority of that figure (397 pieces) are graded as MS 66 RD; only 87 are graded MS 67 RD, and a sole coin has been graded as MS 68 RD. The individuals whose coins received a grade of MS 66 must have been disappointed since the grade is worth $25 to $30–a value only just equal to the grading fee. Instead, those collectors must have been hoping to receive an MS 67 RD or 68 RD.
MS 66 examples are slightly challenging to find, and collectors need to be experienced graders with ample time to sort through many dozens of rolls in order to find one. MS 67 RDs, the first grade that can reliably turn a profit for a submitter, are often described as “problem-free” or “registry-grade” examples. Extremely rare, and usually only found in unopened Mint rolls or in old collections, MS 67+ RDs can be expected to net $130 to $140. The fact that a half-grade bump can increase the price by $100 shows the rarity of these grades. In a strange outlier, one MS 67+ RD example hammered for an insane $4,259 in the Heritage Auctions 2014 September Long Beach Expo sale. This followed a very similar coin that sold the year before, also in a Heritage’s Long Beach Expo sale, for $3,819. These outliers are nearly 525% to 600% higher than the average price over the past five years.
The holy grail of this type is, and will most likely stay, the MS 68 RD. It would undoubtedly be a thrill to find one. While the only MS 68 RD 1978 known has never appeared on the open market, we can estimate the value because there are 10 examples of the later 1979-P cents of that grade. Of these coins, the most recently sold brought $1,320 at auction. That 1979 example is a boldly struck piece with full luster enhanced by the slightest toning.
Due to the current conditional nature of this coin’s rarity, the coin is worth a significant premium over face value only in the highest grades. Yet, as with all ultra-common modern coins, the conditional rarities must hit the market slowly, or risk a price collapse like the 1986 American Silver Eagle.
The obverse of the 1978-P Lincoln cent was designed some 69 years earlier by sculptor Victor David Brenner, whose initials VDB appear in tiny print under the shoulder of President Abraham Lincoln’s bust (which clearly dominates the front side of the coin). The right-facing profile of Lincoln shows the 16th president during his time as the nation’s commander in chief at the height of the Civil War, which spanned from 1861 through 1865, the latter being the year President Lincoln was assassinated.
To the right of Lincoln is the date 1978. Since the coin was struck at the Philadelphia Mint, there is no mintmark. Behind Lincoln’s head is the inscription LIBERTY. Centered along the upper rim of the coin, in an arc over Lincoln’s head, is the motto IN GOD WE TRUST.
The reverse of the 1978-P Lincoln Memorial cent is anchored by an elevation view of the iconic Washington, D.C. memorial dedicated to the iconic president. The relatively high detail of the Lincoln Memorial design is sharp enough to reveal a tiny visage of Lincoln sitting in his chair, replicating the 19-foot-tall statue visitors will encounter inside the actual monument, which was dedicated in 1922.
Below the image of the Lincoln Memorial is the coin’s denomination, ONE CENT, and along the top center of the rim is the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The phrase E PLURIBUS UNUM is inscribed in two lines under the legend and above the Lincoln Memorial design. Designer Frank Gasparro’s initials FG are seen at the bottom right of the Lincoln Memorial just above a shrub.
The edge of the 1978-P Lincoln cent is smooth or plain and without reeding – as are all other Lincoln cents.
Lithuanian-born coin designer Victor David Brenner is best known for his iconic design for the Lincoln cent (1909-Present) (View Designer’s Profile).
Frank Gasparro was an American medalist and coin designer (View Designer’s Profile).
|Year Of Issue:||1978|
|Mint Mark:||None (Philadelphia)|
|Alloy:||95% copper, %5 tin and zinc|
|OBV Designer||Victor David Brenner|
|REV Designer||Frank Gasparro|
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